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Jake's 58 in limbo on when casino, hotel can reopen

Jake's 58, seen on March 15, has been

Jake's 58, seen on March 15, has been closed since that month because of the pandemic. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk OTB officials and the owners of Jake’s 58 say the Islandia casino-hotel, which has been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, may remain shuttered for at least two more months.

Delaware North, Jake’s 58’s Buffalo-based owner, which operates the video-lottery casino for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., said in an email it had implemented safety measures to prepare the facility for customers, but has not been told by state officials when it can reopen.

Casinos attached to hotels are not allowed to reopen, according to the website for New York's reopening plan, which provides no indication when casinos will be allowed to go back into business. The hotel portion of Jake's 58 also is closed. 

"We appreciate the approach being taken by New York State to reopen smartly and safely, and we do not have any further information on when we will reopen," Suffolk OTB spokesman Jon Schneider said in an email. "However, once we are allowed to reopen, we look forward to all our employees returning to work."

Suffolk OTB furloughed most of its 300 Jake's 58 employees after the casino closed. Schneider said OTB would pay for their health benefits through July 31.

Before the pandemic, Jake's 58 was among the state's most successful betting parlors, generating millions of dollars annually for Suffolk and other entities such as public schools. The casino also helps OTB, which filed for bankruptcy in 2011, to pay about $15 million owed to creditors.

OTB owes Suffolk a minimum of $1 million this year from Jake's 58, county Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said in an interview. He said lost income from OTB was among $300 million to $500 million in projected losses for the county this year because of COVID-19.

Delaware North last month notified the state Department of Labor that 24 nonunion Jake's 58 employees laid off in March would remain temporarily out of work. The filing said the hotel-casino's closure was "expected to exceed six months," indicating it may not reopen until late September.

Glen A. White, a Delaware North spokesman, said the affected employees work in the hotel and its food and beverage operation.

White said the notification, known as a WARN notice, was issued because the casino may be closed for an additional two months, though officials are preparing for the facility to open as soon as state officials allow it.

"But we are hopeful that Jake’s 58 can reopen soon," White said in an email, adding the facility's heating and air-conditioning system has been upgraded.

When they return, customers will be required to register to enable contact tracing, and social distancing and masks will be mandatory, White said. Seating capacity will be limited, he said.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he couldn't give a date when Jake's 58 might reopen, adding officials are following "data and best practices" before making that decision.

"I know people are unhappy," Azzopardi said in a statement. "But better that than sick or worse.”

Suffolk OTB on Wednesday reopened its Farmingdale, Centereach and Hauppauge locations after staff received training, Schneider said.

Nassau OTB reopened its Plainview and Franklin Square parlors on July 5. Its four other locations remain closed. 

“We want to go back to work," said Jackson Leeds, an unemployed Nassau OTB cashier. "We want a paycheck in our pocket.”

With Rachelle Blidner and Mark Harrington

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